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Help!! Do dressage braids restrict blood flow to the brain?!?

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  • Help!! Do dressage braids restrict blood flow to the brain?!?

    So, the pinto plowbeast & I did our 3rd entry-level (2'9”) HT this past weekend. The good news: we finished on our dressage score (in a rainstorm of biblical proportions) and in 6th place! The bad news: that dressage score was enough to make me want to put bags over both of our heads!!! We need an intervention! Or group therapy! Or a new hobby!! How can I convince my mare that the dressage ring is not a house of horrors?

    Mare is a nervy type (so much for the placid draft-cross stereotype!) who comes off the trailer soaked in sweat, trembling and about 3 inches taller than when I loaded her (how do they DO that?!). We walk around, think soothing thoughts, eat grass, look at everything, warm up sloooowly... she is still a fire-breathing dragon. The test is excruciating for all parties concerned. Back at the trailer, her braids come out... and hey! Her brain is back in! In both jumping phases she is strong and forward, but completely down to business. If you are interested, here we are doing our thing on x-c... I think she wishes the jumps were bigger!


    How can I help her to settle down before her test? I tried warming her up over jumps but the plowbeast is not easily deceived... she knew she still had to enter the evil ring-with-chains. As exasperating as it all is, I really do feel sorry for her and know I am likely contributing to the situation. I'd love to move up (eventually) but can't contemplate it until our test resembles actual dressage instead of roller derby.
    Any suggestions would be gratefully received!!!
    I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.

  • #2
    Honestly - I think she's probably feeding off of your energy as much as anything. I've seen it with a couple of the eventing friends that I "work" with (I help them with their dressage and they help me with jumping). It amazes me how each rider's attitude towards the dressage test (dread, anxiety, frustrated anticipation) transmits itself to their prospective mount - and each horse (normally quite laid-back) becomes a jittery, nervous wreck.

    You might also try giving your mare some magnesium (oxide) in the week prior to the event. Can often aid in calming a horse when in a stressful situation.

    And always feel free to blame it on the braids - works as well as any of the excuses my friends make!
    Originally posted by SmartAlex

    Give it up. Many of us CoTHers are trapped at a computer all day with no way out, and we hunt in packs. So far it as all been in good fun. You should be thankful for that.


    • #3
      Braids restricting

      Whose brain?


      • #4
        What happens if you braid her at home?
        breeder of Mercury!

        remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


        • Original Poster

          I'm sure you are right that I am winding her up.... I just don't know how to fix it! I do have her on MagOx all the time, anyway.. and I am on calming supplements (a.k.a beer) at the show, too!!

          Do you think we would benefit from going to a straight dressage show just so we could do several classes? (That suppressed scream you hear is from the local judges saying "dear God, please no!!!")
          I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.


          • #6
            My g-d, what a big cute mare! You look like you are having a ball.

            As for dressage... can't help you there. But I have to say, I admire you for taking on the dressage jitters on such a big sturdy horse... Mine is tiny and dealing with her behavior (very similar to your horse's) is quite enough...
            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

            1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


            • Original Poster

              outyougo - good point...
              Carol -- it doesn't seem to make a difference... as soon as she gets on a trailer to go to a show, or hunting, or what have you, she is wired for sound. If we can get to the jumping right away, she is (relatively) ok.

              thanks for the replies!
              I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.


              • Original Poster

                Aww, thanks, quietann! She really is a ton of fun... quite literally!
                I have often thanked my lucky stars that she is as big as all that -- her personality in a quick little TB body and I would have been launched to the moon several times!
                (Your horse is lovely, btw... I loved your story from the dressage clinic!!)
                I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.


                • #9
                  A big YES to the dressage shows. Just getting her (and you!) in the ring as many times as possible will almost certainly help. I have known one horse who just got more and more tense with multiple classes, but it's definitely worth a try for you and your mare.


                  • #10
                    My mare wants to leave the dressage ring. now. any way possible. with or without me. Jumping she's looking for the next fence.

                    Jumps give her something to focus on instead of: I'm alone, all alone, I don't like this, where are my buddies, are we done yet, this is strange, I don't like this.


                    • #11
                      An excellent book that I think would apply to your situation (and useful for any rider, really) Jane Savoie's "It's Not Just About the Ribbons". Lots of great sports pschology stuff for riders, visualization, positive thinking, etc etc, too much good stuff to list. I'm re-reading it now and it just gives me so much inspiration and motivation. Jane is fantastic! I attended a clinic of hers a few years ago, have several of her books, and use her techniques on a daily basis.

                      As an aside, I know some horses are awfully sensitive to braiding and seem uncomfortable with braids in. Does your mare object to having her mane pulled? If you braided her at home and schooled as normal does she behave differently? I know you're not totally serious about the braids causing the issue, but good to rule it out anyway! Especially in your OWN mind so it's no longer a possibility and you can focus on a positive ride And heck, if you're still not convinced, no one would get mad if you didn't braid for dressage at your next show too, just to see if she seems more relaxed without them in.


                      • #12
                        Honestly, if I braid too tight, my horse gets tense. Seriously!
                        There could be a multitude of things though.
                        Braiding = dressage test = tense
                        Braiding = show = tense

                        So, don't braid the next time and have a good time. Play with it and figure out if it's you, the horse, or the braids.
                        Even duct tape can't fix stupid


                        • #13
                          I'm with Lisa B - go to to dressage schooling shows or to other farms and ride tests with no braids. Probably the tension is unrelated to braids but has to do with both of you getting uptight about the torture chamber with chains. So, desensitization for both of you. You are doing way harder stuff navigating the turns and striding for jumping, so ride your dressage test as if there were invisible jumps in it and that might get you to flow it more. Or, put poles on the ground to ride forward to. Mostly I think it's not the tricks that matter, it's like what Denny says "those things we don't know how to do, we learn by doing them."

                          (My old small tour horse hated having braids in and really hated having his forelock braided - so I'd braid him with rubber bands right before the test and never did his forelock. I'd take the braids out hacking back from the ring. It just a little way to make him happy, and to make me feel better about it. I got really good at braids that lasted 26 minutes - 20 minutes for warmup and 6 for the test!)


                          • Original Poster

                            Thanks for all the suggestions!

                            Enjoytheride – that's my mare to a T. And we HAVE made an unscheduled exit from the evil ring. How do you deal with your mare's nerves?

                            SecondEdition – thanks, I'll check out that book. I read “That Winning Feeling” years ago and I do really like her upbeat attitude.

                            Funny you guys would mention mane pulling! Mane pulling is like a military operation – I tackle the bulk of the job once a year when she is tranqued from a teeth float and I end up doing a half-roach anyway.... (somehow, we can't seem to do anything normally around here!). I was joking about the braids but maybe I'll try going unbraided next time... I mean, it's not as if a first place finish hangs in the balance!!

                            Honestly, I know that my show nerves must be part of it, but she is like this even when we go somewhere relaxed and fun – to a x-c schooling, going hunting or to a hunter pace. If she can get to the jumps, she eventually settles down... if only we could do our dressage phase last!! She is 8 this year and I am hoping that she may grow out of this... maybe by the time she is 20?
                            I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.


                            • #15
                              Asp is like this at the moment. We were run into in the dressage warm-up by another horse, and she's still not quite over it.

                              The best thing for her is to go off somewhere quiet and to work. I start out with easy, basic stuff and gradually ask her for harder work. Makes her focus on me rather than what's going on around her, and she usually chills out nicely.
                              Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                              • Original Poster

                                kooki -- that sucks. We'd melt down completely if something bad actually happened (as opposed to in our overheated imaginations). Hope Asp gets over her fear.

                                Our warm-up takes forever and she will settle somewhat, but the second she leaves the comfort of her new BFFs in the warm-up area, the tension comes back... I mean, during our entry halt and salute, she spun around and started screaming at the warm-up ring!!

                                I guess I will drag myself to a few dressage shows.... although that prospect sort of has the appeal of a root canal operation right now....

                                I love the 26 minute braids!
                                I don't mind if you call me a snowflake, 'cause baby, I know a blizzard is coming.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by fargaloo View Post
                                  kooki -- that sucks. We'd melt down completely if something bad actually happened (as opposed to in our overheated imaginations). Hope Asp gets over her fear.

                                  Our warm-up takes forever and she will settle somewhat, but the second she leaves the comfort of her new BFFs in the warm-up area, the tension comes back... I mean, during our entry halt and salute, she spun around and started screaming at the warm-up ring!!

                                  I guess I will drag myself to a few dressage shows.... although that prospect sort of has the appeal of a root canal operation right now....

                                  I love the 26 minute braids!
                                  Thanks! It scared the life out of both of us. She's getting better slowly. It'll just take time.

                                  What happens if you warm up away from the other horses? Will she settle better then or does it make her worse?

                                  Stressage shows might be a good idea- even enter a few walk/trot tests just to keep things really low key.
                                  Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


                                  • #18
                                    Fortunately, this is likely an easy fix- just go do things. Lots of things, of all different types. Braid her at home, then go for a trail ride. Go to a show, do warm-up, then go home- forget the showing part altogether. Then, put her on the trailer, and go to a jumper show where she never has to do dressage. If that goes well, try jumpers braided. Then go to a dressage show unbraided and do 2-3 easy tests. Heck, do walk-trot only if you want. Then take her to a hunter pace. Heck, if you run out of time, just put her on the trailer- drive around the block, and bring her back home. Anything off the property is good, start low key and build up.


                                    • #19
                                      I think it's a mental thing . . . your mental thing.

                                      You consider the dressage arena "evil," even in jest, and it will transmit to your mare.

                                      I love dressage . . . and you know what- all the horses I've had- babies, OTTBs, foxhunters, broodmares, all loved dressage. Don't think it's a coincidence.


                                      • #20
                                        Get thee to a real dressage show! You can usually ride two tests per level at a dressage show, and you can often do multiple levels - and, at recognized shows that occur over multiple days, you can do all of that, all over again, on each day. So - deep breath - sign up for a show, enter as many tests and levels as you reasonably can, and go do it!

                                        The benefits - you will become less nervous yourself about doing dressage (and thus your horse will become less tense); your horse will learn that dressage tests are not necessarily followed by sj or xc; and your horse will learn that getting on the trailer and/or being braided does not necessarily corrspond to sj or xc.

                                        You will see ULRs at the big shows for those reasons. And they often beat the pants off the regulars, which is satisfying to see
                                        Treat Jockey for Spellbound and Smidgeon